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BACKGROUND: Narrative assessment is sensitive to the communication impairments of children with specific language impairment and those with autistic spectrum disorders. Although both groups of children tend to show deficits in narrative, it is unclear whether these deficits are qualitatively different and how language and pragmatic ability may impact on narrative competence. Comparing these two groups of children with children who exhibit pragmatic language impairment without autism may help to clarify these issues. AIMS: This study explored the relationship between structural language ability and pragmatic competence in narrative in children with communication impairments and typically developing children. METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Diagnostic status was determined using the Children's Communication Checklist. All children were asked to generate a narrative to the wordless picture book Frog, Where are You? (Mayer 1969). Narratives were analysed according to their global structure, local linguistic structure and the child's ability to provide evaluative comments, especially about mental or emotional states. OUTCOMES AND RESULTS: No group differences were seen in global structure or evaluation. Children with specific language impairment and autistic disorder made more syntactic errors, and children with autism were significantly more likely to provide ambiguous references in the story. No significant relationships were evident between the Children's Communication Checklist and narrative measures. The complexity of language used was related to evaluation in the clinical groups. CONCLUSIONS: Narrative is a good way of assessing linguistic ability in older children with communication impairments. Core language abilities rather than pragmatic skill or diagnostic status are likely to influence narrative development.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Lang Commun Disord

Publication Date





287 - 313


Autistic Disorder, Case-Control Studies, Child, Communication Disorders, Humans, Language, Language Development Disorders, Narration